Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The New Phone Book's Here!

I am reminded of Steve Martin in the "The Jerk" when he gets wildly excited about the new phone book arriving. He whips through the pages and says "Johnson, Navin R."

That was my excitement level when I arrived home to see the Stan's No Tubes box waiting for me. Like Christmas in late March. The correlation between my excitement and the movie is probably more because while I was carrying the box inside thinking, "the new phone book is here", I thought about the absurdity of being as excited as I was. A later scene in the movie illustrates the fact that what I get excited about could mean absolutely squat to the average person. "Johnson, Navin R., sounds like a typical bastard" is uttered as he is shot at in this this scene.

So what's in the box? Bike stuff of course. Before I bought the Superfly that is calling my name to the right on this page, I convinced myself that buying it could also be justified by converting it to a single speed because it was a lightweight hardtail. Following through on that, to not let myself down, I ordered a new Stan's ZTR 355 29'er laced up with an White Industries ENO Eccentric hub. This ingenious hub sports an eccentric spindle that allows the axle's center to be adjusted. For those wondering, this is to allow chain tension adjustment in the hub on bikes that don't allow it in the frame. This is really only applicable in the singlespeed application, where you only drive one gear, like my old BMX days. White Industries has taken it one step further and designed the Dos Freewheel, which is essentially two gears on a freewheel that marries to the ENO hub. By setting the chain tension to the smallest cog/shortest axle length position, you can switch to the largest cog and simply adjust the hub position to gain the proper chain tension. Two gear positions with one chain and no removal of the wheel. If I ever get serious about the singlespeed application, I can just go to single cogs and multiple chains, but not now. Perhaps some pictures will help.

Some would argue that this is a two speed bike not a single speed. I could argue that point too if I cared about doing so, but since I can only ride in one of the two gears without making a five to ten minute adjustment, it will never be anything more than a singlespeed. Those quick to critique the setup as not a pure singlespeed should only worry about it if they are behind me.
The hub is disc specific so the folks at White Industries also make an eccentric disc rotor adapter so that every adjustment in the gearing, or axle location, can be accomodated by an adjustment in the brake caliper. This is because when you adjust the wheel location slightly, the disc brake rotor is going to be out of alignment. It all makes sense in my head, and on paper, but will it work. That entry is yet to come. Once the snow melts, I hope to give it a thorough test drive.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Outside and In

Riding at this time of the year is always a bit frustrating. The excitement to get outside is always a driving force on nice days, which typically fall during the work week. Last weekend was the exception. Saturday and Sunday were mirror images of each other. Close to 40 degrees and very little wind. Three of us went out on Saturday for a quick 25 miles, and seven of us managed to get out for 47 miles on Sunday. It is always nice to have numbers out on the road this time of year. Drafting is warmer, cars can see a pack easier and it is nice to talk with everyone during rotations. This time of year though, people are excited to ride, but not usually in peak shape. After the first 30 miles on Sunday's ride, we were reminded that the spring is for base mileage, logging hours in the saddle and conversation when late in the ride there were three groups instead of one. Time will bring us back together I assume, but you never know, family and work take away from each persons devotion to the bike in their own special way.

Easter weekend (this weekend) was a different story. Temperatures hovered just at or below my 35 degree limit with winds a bit higher than I would like. I decided to do some power work of the trainer and push my legs a bit. Good Friday I took it easy, riding a 15 minute warm up and an interval course that takes just over a half an hour. Saturday I pushed it much more. After a short warmup, I rode a virtual course up Mont Ventoux in France, a climb that takes just over an hour. 12.8 miles up an average slope of 8.4%, with a max gradient of 14.8% totaling 5,587 feet of elevation gain. After that I did a 10 mile course of flat, steady pace work.

I had plans to do that again this morning, but I did not feel very good. Ended up scrapping the idea of riding all together. Instead I washed vitamins down with Guiness Extra Stout. After three days straight of forgetting to eat lunch, I think my body was upset with me. The forecast is for 40's and the Minnesota Wild are barely holding onto first place in their Division. Riding outside is quite appealing right now.

Almost forgot; Friday we drove through a blizzard to go to Eau Claire for some shopping. Stumbled upon a Bontrager RaceXLite 53/39 crankset for 99 dollars. This is one of only 5 cranksets that will work with a Cinqo Power Meter that are set to be released in April. Just maybe this will all come to fruition. I will write more about it later...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

46 Degrees...A heat wave!

A friend called me Monday night and asked if we would go riding Tuesday after work because it was supposed to be warm. I turned him down, half regretting it when I hung up. Fortunately, Mark (aka SuperCrash as named by my kids) is a tenacious animal. At 5pm on Tuesday he called me at the office and said, "If I get to your house by 5:40 will you go?" A quick check of the temperatures on the Internet confirmed that it was indeed 46 degrees outside. Plenty Warm, I'm In. When I got home I quickly called Ron (aka Sandbagger) and Bobby T. Ron was in but Bob was out. Fair enough. Ron started from his house and had logged a few miles before we met him a mile from my place.

The pavement felt good but surprisingly rough after hundreds of miles on a stationary trainer and coasting on downhill sections was remembered as entertaining. The wind was light but again, surprisingly strong compared to the guest bedroom fan that offers no resistance. Still, it was a ride in the spring time sun on dry paved roads. Seventeen miles is no epic ride, but it was fun and we really couldn't go much longer without needing lights. The snow covered ground cooled the air quickly and once the sun set, any wet spots were quickly turned to ice. I offer a picture from my less than adequate phone, for no other reason than to document the day and the piles of snow in the ditch.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Endless Winter

Ahh, the new daylight savings time (DST). Four weeks of extra sunlight. While the verdict is still out on this topic, I love it. Way to go Department of Energy. A simple clock change can save up to 100,000 barrels of oil every day and increase the hours to ride a bike early and late in the season.

That may not apply this season however. It seems that winter will never end. The snow on the trails will not melt until the temps moderate. Two nights ago it was around -20 degrees F. That is not typical March weather. Riding on the roads is not even an option for me when it is below 35 degrees, mostly because I have a great indoor trainer that makes riding outdoors in that type of junk pointless, but also because it is harder to get others to go for a ride. It is also questionable in terms of time before it gets dark. Even the DST is not quite enough during the week for a long ride after work this early. I guess there is always snowboarding if it warms up. Turns are tough to learn on ice for the little man.

My son has it all worked out. He rides in the driveway, but the ice under the blanket of snow causes him to fall if he goes too slow. At least he is learning how to fall properly. Like me, he can't wait to ride mountain bike. He wants to earn more medals in the WORS kid races.

If somehow I could get my daughter riding mountain bike (probably in a Princess Dress) and my wife to run in the WORS Trail Runs, then we could all enjoy something together, but that is not likely. It is not something I will push for, but with every day there is fresh hope of a spontaneous shift in the MO of the ladies.

Pavel and I are off to the WILD game today. We need some serious points or we will be out of the playoffs faster than you can say Marian Gaborik. The team is not firing on all cylinders and it is really starting to get on my nerves. We always seem to lack grit at the end of the season.